Pop quiz: You walk into the living room and see toys and pillows strewn about. Which request is more likely to motivate a four-year-old child to put things back in order?
A: “Please help clean up this room.”
B: “Please be a helper and clean up this room.”
The answer? B.
In a 2014 study published in the Journal of Child Development, researchers asked children between the ages of three and six to perform a variety of tasks. Children who were asked to be “helpers” were significantly more responsive to requests than those who simply asked to “help.” This phenomenon is not limited to childhood. For example, in an earlier study by two of the same researchers, they discovered that adults are more likely to show up at the polls if they are told, “Be a voter.” The phrase “Go vote” simply wasn’t as motivating.